Besides the annual running back issues, the Iowa Hawkeyes took a once-promising 2012 season and turned it into six straight losses and no bowl game. Kirk Ferentz had arguably his most disappointing season as head coach of the Hawkeyes and saw this team with a veteran quarterback miss a bowl for the first time since the 2007 season.
The Hawkeyes lost running back Damon Bullock early in the season, but they gained a monster rusher in former-fullback Mark Weisman. After filling in for a few games, Weisman became one of the conference’s best rushers.
Ferentz will look to get his team back to the postseason once again in 2012. Here’s a look at the No. 93 Hawkeyes.
While it looks like the Hawkeyes may not have enough experience to make a bowl run in 2013, the strong running backs and solid quarterback battle could make for an interesting yet surprising finish this season.
They have some of the best pass-catchers in the conference and wide receiver Kevonte Martin-Manley is one of them. He had 52 catches for 571 yards last season and is the most experienced receiver on the team. He will be labeled as the No. 1 wideout come August.
Mark Weisman had 189 carries for 815 yards and eight touchdowns in 2012. This guy can carry the rock with purpose and power. Bullock, on the other hand, is more of a finesse back. He had 513 rushing yards last season to go along with 167 receiving yards.
Lastly, tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz could be their best offensive weapon. In 2010, he was considered one of the best prep tight ends in the class. Last season, he had 45 catches for 433 yards and a touchdown. He will be even better this year.
If it seems like most of the top players are on offense, you’re right. This team lost a few key defenders last season and will look to rebuild on that side of the ball.
James Vandenberg had one of the worst seasons of any Iowa starting quarterback in quite some time. He completed about 57% of his passes and threw for just over 2,200 yard with just seven touchdowns and eight interceptions.
In 2013, there seems to be a bit of a heated quarterback battle between three guys. Jake Rudock, Cody Sokol and C.J. Beathard will be battling it out for a starting spot in 2013.
While these three have no experience as collegiate starters, I believe the guy who wins the battle will have a better season than Vandenberg had in 2012. In my opinion, Rudock will win the job after having the best performance of any quarterback in the spring game.
The running back situation, as mentioned earlier, will be strong and steady. Weisman, Bullock and Jordan Canzeri will lead one of the strongest running back trios in the conference. It’s not often you see three guys split time at running back, but this might be one of those situations.
There’s not much to say about the defense right now, but they need to improve on their nationally above average points against ranking from last season. They ranked 33rd in points against and looked to be the strong point of the entire team.
That being said, they need to work on a few things in 2013.
They need to figure out who will be stepping up at cornerback. Sean Draper, Jordan Lomax and recently-converted wide receiver Maurice Fleming could all be in the mix to replace former No. 1 cornerback B.J. Lowery.
Iowa’s sack numbers from a year ago were laughable, recording just 13 sacks– ranking 113th nationally and last in the Big Ten. If they can figure out a pass rush before the season starts, the defense looks to be a bit improved.
2013 could be a rude awakening for the young Hawkeyes as they play many tough road games and their non-conference schedule could be tough as well.
Here are their toughest games: vs. Northern Illinois Huskies, @ Iowa State Cyclones, vs. Michigan State Spartans, @ Ohio State Buckeyes, vs. Northwestern Wildcats, vs. Wisconsin Badgers, vs. Michigan Wolverines, @ Nebraska Cornhuskers.
Iowa faces one of the toughest schedules in college football. If they can win one or two road games out of the bunch mentioned above, they could possibly make a bowl. I could see them going 4-8 once again, however, and missing a bowl game for the second consecutive season.